Britain’s CBD market is on track to become an economic powerhouse. According to a recent report from the Association of Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), CBD sales reached £690 million at the end of April, more than the initial £526 million forecast. This means that the UK now has the strongest CBD market, second only to the US. The report, titled “Green shots: Sowing the seeds of the new UK cannabinoid market”, revealed that British consumers now spend more on cannabis products than vitamin B and C supplements combined. CBD is no longer a wellness trend, and the UK has entered a “quiet cannabis revolution”. Based on consumer trends and reported sales, CBD could generate thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in exports, which is why it’s important for authorities to fund more research on it, reduce barriers to entry, and leverage its opportunities.
The report also points out that, despite the initial scepticism, the cannabinoid industry has crossed some important milestones in the past few years, including the creation of a legal framework to research the medicinal uses of Cannabis-based products. At present, four prestigious UK-based Universities are pioneering research on the mental health benefits of CBD. While awareness played an important role in the popularisation of CBD in the UK, legislative changes from 2017 onwards had the biggest impact.
There was definitely a lot of progress, but the future of the CBD industry isn’t without its challenges. According to the Association of Cannabinoid Industry, the biggest obstacles are the “lack of legal clarity and regulatory pathways” and the limited government expertise on the topic.
CBD demand spiked during the pandemic
The interest in CBD products isn’t new. Charlotte’s Web is widely regarded as the company that started the CBD movement in the US. Nowadays, CBD has become one of the biggest wellness buzzwords for several years now, both in the UK and the US. Even before the pandemic, the forecast for the CBD market was extremely positive, so when COVID-19 came along, the interest in CBD products surged.
Apart from existing consumers, CBD also piqued the interest of people who were struggling with the forced lifestyle changes brought by the pandemic. In 2020, nearly 8.5 million UK consumers had either bought CBD products or were considering doing so. As one of the most versatile wellness solutions, CBD has many applications, from treating inflammation and pain to promoting a state of calm and relaxation.
The UK had a long string of lockdowns and some of the strictest social distancing policies, which took a heavy blow on the population’s mental health. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, people struggled with loneliness, isolation, health anxiety, and insomnia, which threw the country into a mental health crisis and put people at higher risk of developing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression. While CBD is not a treatment for either of these conditions, research has shown that it can be effective in managing symptoms such as stress and sleep difficulties. Moreover, CBD products may help consumers better cope with the small stresses of daily life.
According to a 2020 study, the potential benefits of CBD got many people curious during the pandemic, and these were the most common reasons why they decided to give it a try:
- Pain management and relief (42%)
- Help with insomnia (21%)
- Reduce anxiety symptoms (19%)
The vast majority of consumers took CBD alone, but 38% took it in combination with traditional medication. Of all the UK consumers, more than half made their first CBD purchase in the past year. Unlike the US, where most consumers buy their CBD products from dispensaries, Brits rely on online stores to buy high-quality CBD products such as full spectrum CBD oil, and only 13% source products from pharmacies and health shops.
Young people account for the biggest share of consumers. Most people who buy CBD oil and other cannabinoid products are in the 18-290 category, followed by those who are 30-49. Only a small percentage of people 65+ use CBD, but there are several ongoing studies investigating the efficiency of CBD in treating the pain and inflammation caused by chronic health conditions such as arthritis.
While the full range of CBD benefits remains to be established, the studies that have been done so far are encouraging, and researchers are optimistic about the potential of CBD products in managing pain, addressing mental health symptoms, and fighting inflammation. So far, the use of CBD extracts in the treatment of paediatric epilepsy is the best researched, studies showing that CBD can reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with rare, severe forms of epilepsy like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The most popular CBD products available in the UK
One of the main reasons why CBD is so popular is that it can be consumed in many forms. For example, someone who wants to ease muscle inflammation after an intense workout can apply CBD cream locally, while someone who wants to fall asleep faster can take CBD oil or tablets. Overall, the most popular CBD products are:
- Oils and tinctures
- CBD gummies
- CBD-infused food
- CBD-infused non-alcoholic drinks
- CBD creams
The right method of consumption should be best established with help from a health professional because the efficiency of CBD greatly depends on the dosage and the severity of the symptoms. For example, someone who only wants to achieve a sense of calm and focus when working on a project can take a few drops of CBD oil, while those who are struggling with anxiety and insomnia may be recommended to alternate between CBD oil for long term effects, and vaping, for short term relief. As for the right type of CBD products, experts recommend full spectrum as opposed to isolate ones because they contain other extracts from the cannabis plant, such as essential oils and terpenes.
By 2028, the global CBD industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.2%. Although more efforts are needed from regulating authorities to further explore the benefits of CBD, the future of the industry looks bright.